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Adverbs & Adjectives

Updated: Dec 22, 2023

Americans love to embellish. We like to emphasize how big, powerful, scary, or emotional something may be.

Yet, there is something beautiful about stark writing. Hunter S. Thompson describes his writing philosophy as "not a wasted word" - simple sentences that convey meaning.

"The adjective is the enemy of the noun." - Voltaire

So, how does one learn to edit down to the shortest string of words? By recognizing those extra words that we love to use.

old fashion blue typewriter
Not a word wasted

Adjective: a word that modifies a noun or pronoun.

Adjectives are used to add description to a noun, such as

"The young girl walked down the street."

Young helps a reader to visualize the character. It adds context as it sets the scene with a child in mind.

Adverb: a word that modifies a verb, an action, a circumstance or time.

Adverbs answers "how" something is happening or happened.

"The young girl walked swiftly down the street."

Swiftly adds intrigue. Why is she walking quickly? Is there something she's rushing to or from? It moves the story along with only the slightest modification.

Idiom: a group of words that have meaning when together, but not separately.

Idioms can be tricky. They are often culturally rooted. Those who understand the local lexicon will immediately know what an idiom means. Unfortunately, context may be lost on those who have a different language or cultural background.

"It was raining cats and dogs, so the young girl walked swiftly down the street to get home."

Make sure you fully understand the meaning of an idiom or use secondary clues to lead your reader to an accurate conclusion.

Cliché: a title, phrase or expression; a descriptor that has been overused so that it has lost its original effect.

We all use clichés. They are easy filler to simplify an idea. Unfortunately, a page full of these overly colloquial sayings quickly loses meaning.

Examples of cliches:

  • dead as a doornail

  • think outside of the box

  • if only walls could talk

Use them when you need, but do it sparingly.

Editing for Expression

When readying your writing for editing, take a look at how you are describing your characters, actions, and the words you use to express emotion. Delete, simplify, and consolidate into a shorter, more meaningful sentence.

Have questions? Contact me for a quick grammar lesson or to chat about your next project.

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